Many of our larger investment management clients are doing business in Asia. And – at the risk of sounding stalkery – where they go, we go.
In our recent forays into Asian markets, our client meetings have thrown up a recurring theme. There’s often a disconnect in how asset managers – usually with centralised marketing departments in London or New York – are communicating with clients in Asia. In short, they’re having to make do with content that has been written in the UK for UK clients, or in the US for clients stateside. Given the huge growth in middle-income demographics in Asia in the next decade, this is a missed opportunity.
So, here are some quick wins that should help make your investment communications more meaningful for your Asian clients.
1. Think about who you’re talking to
This may seem like an obvious one, but you need to know your customer before you can communicate investment ideas to them. Asia is not a homogenous continent, and that diversity requires a diverse approach to communication.
According to McKinsey, Asia is on course to represent 50% of the world’s GDP by 2040, up from just under a third in 2000. But attention-grabbing headlines like this have a tendency to mask the individuality of Asian countries in terms of savings habits, consumption trends and spending power.
In Nepal, for example, average annual income is estimated to be $849, while in Singapore, it’s $57,714. In China, the economy is becoming more reliant on consumption, but saving is still a priority – China’s savings rate is among the highest in the world at more than 30%. This is a legacy of historical events such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Chinese investors also tend to be more risk-averse. In Japan, meanwhile, society is structured around the idea of the collective, not the individual, and the population is ageing – the proportion of working people to over-65s is two to one.
These are just a few regional differences, but there are countless others. So, before you put pen to paper for your Asian clients, learn about the local culture of your target market, and think about which investment messages are likely to hit home.
2. Repurpose and localise your content
Let’s say you’ve invested time and money in writing a great white paper for investors in the UK or the US. Obviously, you want to get the most of it, which could include adapting it for use by new readers in other countries. But before you bundle it off to the translator, it’s important to review it with an eye for content that’s aimed for UK and US readers.
For example, a piece of copy that references the Financial Conduct Authority or dwells on the travails of MiFID will be of no practical use to an Asian reader. Even if it’s just a paragraph in an otherwise useful piece of writing, it jars and conveys the impression that Asian readers aren’t a priority. Be brutal with your editing, and get rid of any copy that doesn’t speak directly to your clients’ needs.
3. Write for translation
If you’re writing copy from scratch in English, have a thought for the translator who’s next in line in the process. If there’s anything in your copy that’s even slightly woolly or ambiguous, it will make life difficult at the translation stage.
It’s yet another brilliant reason to ditch the jargon, because the quality of your local-language translation hinges on the quality of the original in English. As we say in Scotland, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. And this colourful proverb nicely introduces our next point: be mindful of regional phrases and idiomatic language. We all want our writing to stand out, and there’s a lot to be said for a colourful metaphor. But think about how well the language and imagery you have in mind will play to an international reader – especially when translated. If in doubt, cut it out.
4. Work with a local partner
A local partner can give you the informed insights that make all the difference. They’re an invaluable source of knowledge, providing the cultural context that makes communicating with your Asian clients natural and effective. Put in the time to find a partner who’s a good fit for your business.
We spent two years researching potential partners before setting up a joint venture with Beijing Pin Wen Yue Xiang Brand Management to create Copylab China. We’re finding that spending time to find the right local partner pays dividends. As the Chinese philosopher Confucius said, “success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure”.
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